Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada Quarterly Financial Report For the quarter ended June 30, 2013

Statement outlining results, risks and significant changes in operations, personnel and program

1. Introduction

The Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada (OIC) prepared this quarterly report under section 65.1 of the Financial Administration Act and in the form and manner prescribed by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. This report should be read in conjunction with the Main Estimates. It has not been subject to an external audit or review.

The OIC conducts efficient, fair and confidential investigations into complaints about federal institutions’ handling of access to information requests. The goal of these investigations is to maximize compliance with the Access to Information Act while fostering disclosure of public sector information. The Commissioner uses the full range of tools, activities and powers at her disposal, from mediation to persuasion and litigation, as required.

The OIC also supports the Commissioner in her advisory role to Parliament and parliamentary committees on all access to information matters. In delivering its mandate, the OIC promotes information rights and advocates a pro-disclosure culture to ensure government transparency, accountability and citizen engagement.

Further information on the OIC’s mandate, responsibilities and program activities can be found in the OIC’s 2013–2014 Report on Plans and Priorities and Strategic Plan.

1.1 Basis of Presentation

This quarterly report was prepared on an expenditure basis. The accompanying Statement of Authorities includes the OIC's spending authorities granted by Parliament and those used by the OIC, consistent with the Main Estimates for 2013–2014. The authority of Parliament is required before the Government can spend moneys. Organizations receive annually approved expenditure limits through appropriation acts or through legislation in the form of statutory spending authority for specific purposes. In light of this, this report was prepared using a special purpose financial reporting framework designed to meet financial information needs related to the use of spending authorities.

The OIC uses the full accrual method of accounting to prepare and present the annual financial statements that are part of the departmental performance reporting process. However, the spending authorities voted by Parliament remain on an expenditure basis.

2. Highlights of fiscal quarter and year-to-date results

The Statement of Authorities below shows that the OIC spent approximately 20% of its authorities in the first quarter of 2013–2014. Because personnel expenses represent 63% of planned expenditures, the spending is spread out equally over the year. This statement also indicates an increase in the Total Available for Use of $2.8 million. This is primarily attributable to the receipt of a one time loan of $2.6 million to pay for the cost of the OIC’s relocation this fiscal year. This loan will be repaid over 15 years.

As Table 1 indicates, the OIC’s total budgetary expenditures decreased by a minor amount (1.3% or $38,000) in the first quarter of 2013−2014, compared to the same period in 2012−2013. However, there were significant variances within elements of planned expenditures, as follows:

  • The increase in Professional and Special Services is due to additional requirements related to the relocation of the OIC’s offices.
  • The increase in Rentals is a result of software license renewals that have taken place in the current fiscal year.
  • The increase in Acquisition of Machinery and Equipment is primarily a result of the requirement to buy new furniture and equipment as a result of the relocation of the OIC’s offices.

3. Risks and uncertainties

A well-functioning access system is predicated on there being up-to-date legislation, sound administration and robust oversight. In the absence of this foundation, Canadians’ right to access government information is jeopardized.

In the last four years, the OIC has significantly improved its performance. The inventory of complaints has been reduced by more than 28%; 70% of the administrative complaints are being closed in 90 days, and 74% of priority and early resolution files are being closed within six months. However, in the first quarter of the new fiscal year, there was a 50% increase in complaints. With the current staff complement, the OIC faces significant challenges trying to keep up with this volume of work. For example, there is a roughly seven-month gap between when complaints are registered and when they are assigned to investigators. In order to maintain recent performance levels, the OIC requires a significant influx of resources, such that files can be assigned immediately upon receipt.

In these circumstances, the operating budget freeze introduced with Budget 2010 and the significant and successive cuts under Budget 2012 that will have diminished the OIC’s financial resources by nearly 11% of Main Estimates by 2014–2015, have put our program at serious risk. For an organization that was already operating with little budgetary flexibility (the year-end lapse of funds has been less than 5% for the past four years), these cuts have removed any financial manoeuvrability the organization had.

Moreover, the OIC is also facing financial uncertainty due to the PWGSC-mandated relocation of its offices in 2013–2014. In addition to the one-time costs associated with the move itself (the OIC will pay back a loan to cover these costs over 15 years), the relocation will impose new and ongoing incremental costs. Even with the loan arrangement, the financial impact of the move will add to the stress and financial pressure on the OIC.

In combination, these factors have a direct impact on the OIC’s ability to safeguard requestors’ rights under the Access to Information Act.

4. Significant changes in operations, personnel and program

The position of General Counsel was staffed on a permanent basis effective July 2, 2013. This now brings stability to the senior management cadre, since all the positions reporting to the Commissioner have been staffed on a permanent basis.

5. Budget 2012 implementation

The OIC is vulnerable to unexpected spikes in workload, such as an influx of complaints or unexpected court cases, triggered by events outside of its control. The OIC does not have flexibility within its funding envelope to respond to increases in its workload or any other unexpected situation. With the Budget 2012 cut of $500,000, coupled with the additional pressure of loan repayments and new incremental costs, there will potentially be repercussions for the OIC’s ability to carry out its mandate and progress toward its long-term vision.

Access is one of the tools that make citizen engagement in government and the public policy process possible. When the system is at risk, it is more than just an inconvenience to requesters; ultimately, it is the health of Canadian democracy that is at stake.

Approved by

Suzanne Legault
Information Commissioner of Canada

Layla Michaud, CPA, CMA, MBA
Director General, Corporate Services,
Chief Financial Officer

Ottawa, Canada
June 30, 2013

Statement of Authorities (unaudited)

(In thousands of dollars) Fiscal year 2013–2014 Fiscal year 2012–2013
Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2014* Used during the quarter ended June 30, 2013 Year-to-date used at quarter-end Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2013* Used during the quarter ended June 30, 2012 Year-to-date used at quarter-end
Vote 40: Program expenditures 13,171 2,472 2,472 10,349 2,510 2,510
Budgetary statutory authorities: contributions to employee benefit plans 1,359 340 340 1,359 340 340
Total budgetary authorities 14,530 2,812 2,812 11,708 2,850 2,850
TOTAL AUTHORITIES 14,530 2,812 2,812 11,708 2,850 2,850

*Includes only authorities available for use and granted by Parliament at quarter-end.

TABLE 1: Departmental budgetary expenditures by Standard Object (unaudited)

(In thousands of dollars) Fiscal year 2013–2014 Fiscal year 2012–2013
Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2014 Expended during the quarter ended June 30, 2013 Year-to-date used at quarter-end Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2013 Expended during the quarter ended June 30, 2012 Year-to-date used at quarter-end
Personnel 9,168 2,464 2,464 9,080 2,543 2,543
Transportation and communications 169 23 23 196 25 25
Information 125 17 17 127 13 13
Professional and special services 2,182 252 252 1,781 250 250
Rentals 205 30 30 91 8 8
Repair and maintenance 78 20 20 88 2 2
Utilities, materials and supplies 38 6 6 58 9 9
Acquisition of machinery and equipment 2,565 - - 287 - -
Other subsidies and payments - - - - - -
TOTAL BUDGETARY EXPENDITURES 14,530 2,812 2,812 11,708 2,850 2,850